VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Delegates from trade unions worldwide launched a new global labor federation Wednesday aimed at ensuring that workers' rights are not forgotten in the rush toward economic globalization.
Organizers said the International Trade Union Confederation - formerly known as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - would reinvent and modernize itself to better tackle fresh challenges to the rights of unionized workers and to strengthen its efforts to stamp out forced and child labor.
''The strong tradition of solidarity will continue,'' said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the old union, which together with the World Confederation of Labor was formally dissolved to make way for the ITUC.
''Trade union unity at the international level is now essential to ensuring more effective representation of the rights and interests of workers in the global economy,'' he said.
Officials said the new umbrella group, touted as the world's largest dedicated to workers' rights, would represent more than 150 million members from 241 affiliated organizations in 156 countries.
It replaces the Brussels, Belgium-based ICTFU, which was founded in 1949 to work on the enforcement of international labor standards.
Austrian President Heinz Fischer, addressing the estimated 1,600 delegates in Vienna for a conference that runs through Friday, called giving workers a greater voice ''an important and indispensable component of a democratic society.''
Emilio Gabaglio, a former head of the European Trade Union Confederation, urged the world's labor unions to ''go on the offensive'' and combine forces to improve conditions, particularly for poor workers in developing countries.
The new confederation brings together a wide and diverse range of major labor unions, including Britain's Trades Union Congress, the United States' AFL-CIO, France's CGT union, Germany's DGB trade union federation and dozens of other labor groups from five continents.
It staked out a tough position against globalization in its charter approved Wednesday, which decried violations of what members insist is a universal right to strike for better pay and working conditions and engage in collective bargaining.
''More than ever in its history, confronted by unbridled capitalist globalization, effective internationalism is essential to the future strength of trade unionism,'' the charter declared, vowing to continue the struggle ''for the emancipation of working people and a world in which the dignity and rights of all human beings is assured.''
Ryder, who was expected to become general secretary of the new organization, said it would ''exert more influence on companies, governments and the international financial and trade institutions'' to ensure corporate wealth is shared with workers.
Willy Thys, former head of the World Confederation of Labor, said the challenge was to stop the flouting of workers' rights in what he called ''race-to-the-bottom globalization.''